Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Democrats make case for obstruction

In their final day of arguments, House Democrats presented their case alleging Trump obstructed Congress.
Image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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The Democratic House managers used their final day of arguments on Friday — the fourth full day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — to make their case that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress in denying them witness testimony and documents.

Follow us here for all of the latest breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Highlights from the Senate trial

  • Democrats finished hours of arguments in which managers called Trump a "dictator" and a danger to the nation with a plea to the Senate: "Give America a fair trial, she's worth it," lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff said.
  • The White House is set to begin laying out Trump's defense Saturday morning.
  • "Get rid of her": A voice appearing to be Trump's is heard on tape demanding Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.
  • Schiff warned his fellow lawmakers that "the next time, it just may be you" who Trump targets.
  • Democratic House manager Rep. Val Demings says the evidence is "pretty painful" for senators.

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry.

Live Blog

What can we expect from the defense team on Friday?

Like the last couple of days, watch for the media blitz during breaks, the aggressive pushback on the impeachment managers’ arguments, and so on. But we’ll also start to tee up to the defense’s opening arguments, which will start (in some form) on Saturday. The president’s allies believe that’ll be a short day with the team getting to the heart of their argument on Monday.

Conversations with sources and public statements by the defense team suggest the president’s attorneys will split the arguments into several buckets, touching on the substance of the articles as well as what they see as the insufficient threshold for impeachment based on the Constitution. That point is essentially the heart of Schiff's closing statement Thursday night where he made the case that the president’s conduct meets the bar for removal because he’s putting his own personal interests above the country’s.

Schiff's closing: 'You can’t trust this president will do what’s right for this country'

Schiff gave an impassioned closing argument on Thursday of the Democrats' case against Trump’s alleged abuse of power. 

In his final speech of the day, Schiff gave a detailed recitation of the facts, arguing that the evidence shows how Trump pressured Ukraine, a vulnerable U.S. ally, by withholding military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Schiff then said that senators should consider the consequences of not holding Trump accountable and the dangers it could pose to American democracy. 

"How much damage can he do between now and the next election? A lot. A lot of damage,” Schiff said. 

He said that if Trump is not found guilty and removed, Russia or other foreign governments could interfere in the 2020 election. 

"Let's say they start to blatantly interfere in our election again to help Donald Trump," Schiff said. "Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will stand up to them and protect our national interest over his own personal interest? You know you can't, which makes him dangerous to this country. You know you can't. You know you can't count on him, none of us can."

Schiff, speaking directly to a packed and attentive Senate floor with every senator at his or her desk or standing in the back, repeatedly stated that Trump cannot be trusted and is inherently self-interested. 

"If right doesn't matter, we’re lost; if the truth doesn't matter, we’re lost," he said. 

Schiff argued that the Ukraine scandal is a part of the president’s pattern of corrupt behavior and not a one-off issue. 

“You can’t trust this president will do what’s right for this country. He will do what's right for Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first.”

He added, "If you find him guilty you must find that he must be removed because right matters, the truth matters, otherwise we are lost."

Schiff appears to do damage control after Nadler's 'cover-up' remark

After Nadler riled up Republicans by claiming that senators who do not support hearing from witnesses and entering documents into the trial would be complicit in a cover-up, Schiff took a different tone during his closing remarks on Thursday.

"I know you have been bombarded with information all day and when you leave this chamber you are bombarded again by members of the press. There is no refuge, I know," he said. "And I just want to thank you for keeping an open mind about all of the issues we are presenting. An open mind for us and an open mind for the president's counsel, that's all that we can ask for."

Schiff then took a page from Trump's book and, as the president has been saying on Twitter for months now, read the transcripts of the July call with Zelenskiy. The content of the call proves Trump abused his power, Schiff said.

Senators appear to be listening intently as Schiff closes the evening

Throwback Thursday? Trump posts Obama photoshop during trial

As his Senate impeachment trial ran late into the night, Trump appeared to be fantasizing about simpler times — his years of complaining (without evidence) that then-President Barack Obama spied on him in 2016. 

He posted a photoshopped image of Obama using a suction cup to scale the outside of Trump Tower — Mission Impossible-style — to spy on a younger-looking version of Trump. 

It's possible, however, he's reading this story from earlier today about the FBI's secret surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

'A testament to cowardice': Vindman's attorney responds to Blackburn tweet

Vindman's attorney responded to Blackburn's criticizing him on Twitter:

"Senator Blackburn’s renewed attack on Lt. Col. Vindman reveals her true character — she has failed to follow her oath of impartiality while serving as a juror and she continues to attack Lt. Col. Vindman, a decorated war veteran, by smearing his service to our country and his courageous act of reporting President Trump's misconduct."

The attorney later added, "That a member of the Senate — at a moment when the Senate is undertaking its most solemn responsibility — would choose to take to Twitter to spread slander about a member of the military is a testament to cowardice. While Senator Blackburn fires off defamatory tweets, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman will continue to do what he has always done: serve our country dutifully and with honor.”

Crow's simple argument: There's no alternative explanation

Rep. Crow said Democrats' arguments that Trump committed impeachable offenses boil down to one simple question: how else do you explain it?

"You've heard a lot the last few days about what happened. How do we know that the president ordered the hold to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help his personal political campaign? In other words, how do we know why it happened? We know it because to this day there is no other explanation.”

Crow then began to make his case: “We know it because the senior administration officials including the president's own senior political appointees have confirmed it. And we know it because the presidents own chief of staff said it at a national press conference. And we know because the president himself directed it."


Graham says he'll 'resist' pressure to call witnesses Trump wants

Graham reiterated Thursday evening that he would "resist" pressure to call the Bidens, Schiff, and the whistleblower — the anonymous CIA staffer who in August filed a complaint about Trump's phone call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — as witnesses in Trump's trial when the issue comes up for a vote. 

Trump told reporters earlier this month that those were among the people he would like to see testify before the Senate. And on Thursday, the president tweeted that Democrats has nixed a so-called "witness trade" because calling the Bidens and the whistleblower, among others, "would be a BIG problem for them!"

Graham said he remained opposed.

"I am not going to give into that pressure. Because I don’t think it will serve the Senate and the country well, there's ways to do this outside of the trial," he told reporters. 

In the past, Graham has suggested that in the interest of keeping Trump's impeachment trial short, the Bidens could be investigated by Senate committees. The former vice president, Trump has alleged, wielded his influence to benefit his son Hunter Bidens’s private-sector work in Ukraine. But despite Trump's continued claims, there's no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

Trump refers to trial as 'impeachment lite' during RNC dinner

Trump on Thursday evening addressed attendees of the RNC's annual winter meeting, which is taking place at his Doral golf resort.

The president didn’t spend too much time talking about his impeachment trial, but he did refer to the entire process as “impeachment lite,” according to two sources in the ballroom. This is a phrase the president has used at recent campaign rallies and he also argued that what he is experiencing now is nothing compared to the “dark days” of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

Apart from that, the president spent most of his lengthy remarks (80+ mins) on all things 2016, reminiscing about his victory and calling up White House counselor and former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to the stage for a standing ovation.

Images show senators playing with fidget spinners during trial

Courtroom sketch artist Bill Hennessy depicted Sens. Tom Cotton and Richard Burr with their fidget spinners.

Detail of a fidget spinner on the desk of Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ariz.Bill Hennessy
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC., spins a fidget spinner during the impeachment hearing on Jan 23, 2020.Bill Hennessy
Sen. Richard Burr R-NC., spins a fidget spinner during the impeachment hearing on Jan 23, 2020.Bill Hennessy

Just catching up on impeachment news? Here's what you missed today

Democrats on Thursday honed in on their charge that President Donald Trump abused his power, turning to past statements from some of the president's top allies to help make their case on the third day of his Senate impeachment trial.

House prosecutors used old comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Attorney General William Barr and Trump impeachment defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz to bolster their argument that abuse of power is grounds to remove a president — and pointed to Trump's own statements to illustrate his guilt.

If you're just catching up on the news of the day, here's what you missed.